by Juste Semetaite
on October 19, 2016

Cross-selling is a skilful art of introducing customers to complimentary products that they don’t yet know they need. It’s not only about boosting your bottom line by selling more stuff to the same customer, it’s also about improving that customer’s overall experience.

We’ve all been in the would-you-like-a-freshly-baked-croissant-with-your-cappuccino situation.  It feels natural to say yes, so it must be right. And it’s a win-win scenario from both perspectives – the café squeezes higher profit from the same customer and the customer leaves the place happier than he entered it.

What kind of sorcery is that, right?

Well, it’s clear that offline retailers have long mastered the tactics of cross-selling. And we’ve all fallen victims to (or should I say benefited from?) them. But with eCommerce growing at a speed of light, cross-selling online is becoming instrumental to building a profitable business. 

With that in mind, we’re looking at some of the smartest ways to use product recommendations to promote cross-selling. So bear with us.

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For cross-selling tactics to work, they must be intuitive and add value for the customer. Amazon is one of the leaders in this space, making a fortune out of tailored product recommendations.


The beauty of promoting buyer recommendations rather than hammering the user with your own offers is that they instil more trust and pique users’ interest. As long as the suggestions are relevant, they are a welcome addition to the shopping experience.

To optimise this cross-selling technique for a maximum impact, you need to leverage customer data. It’s crucial to know what kind of customer you’re dealing with to make personalised recommendations.

For example, if you’re selling beauty products, cross-sell offers for someone with dry skin will differ significantly from those for someone with oily skin. Analyse the data you have to understand your customers better.

Grouping similar products together

Bundling is a well-tested technique and the simple verdict is that it works, time and time again. But there’s one big caveat.

According to this Harvard Business School study, consumers happily give in to bundle offers only if they get the option of buying the same items individually.

It’s been demonstrated that buyers tend to opt for bundles when there’s an obvious advantage, such as lower price and higher perceived value. Adding one high-value item to a relatively low-margin purchase significantly increases its appeal. Take, for instance, Jessops’ approach to selling pricey cameras. Even small savings captured my attention!


Another great reason for testing bundling is the convenience factor. Known as a brand at the forefront of eCommerce innovation, ASOS is experimenting with “Buy the Look” feature, which groups items that essentially belong together, such as suit trousers and blazer. For the consumer, it’s a logical (and tempting) combination. But only because it’s based on a free choice principle.


Bundles are also exceptionally effective when it comes to special offers, such as gift baskets. Christmas, Father’s or Mother’s day, Valentine’s day – these are all huge opportunities to cross-sell using the bundling technique. It allows you to package top selling and not-so-popular items together while boosting the perceived value of the offer at the same time. Take this John Lewis’ “Christmas Tray” hamper for example. Be honest, you did have a flashing thought: “oh, but it would make a perfect gift!”.


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Offering related product recommendations is one of the most common cross-selling techniques. By interacting with the consumer at the final stages of the buying journey, you get the chance to tap into her impulsive purchase habits. It’s a bit like putting up a chewing gum stand at the till. 

If a buyer has added a side table to her shopping basket, it’s okay to suggest a beautiful bedside table lamp from the same collection. It’s not okay, however, to throw a bunch of bedroom furniture recommendations at her. You don’t want to distract the buyer; you want to enhance her experience.

A useful example of what not to do can be observed on Urban Outfitters. However trendy and hipster the brand is, its product recommendations are lacking relevance and punch.


In this example, I’ve added a vinyl storage rack to my shopping bag. Instead of helping me complete the purchase by suggesting a bestselling vinyl record as a cross-sell offer, the brand has paralysed me by unleashing a selection of product recommendations from the same category. Yep, more vinyl storage racks. Does that mean I made a wrong choice? Should I go for the corner storage rack instead? Do I really need it?

Used wrongly, these related product recommendations made me pause and doubt my own choice. Surely, this was not part of the plan!   

So even though your main goal will always be to use cross-selling recommendations to make more profit, keeping the buyer experience as a central part of this strategy will only increase its chances of success.

Don’t over do it. Imagine yourself on the other side of the screen – does it feel natural?

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